Eight dead in Taliban attack on Afghan bank


JALALABAD – Eight people were killed and 56 others wounded, including police chiefs, Saturday in an attack claimed by the Taliban on a bank in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan. Police officers who were collecting their salaries were among the dead and Alishah Paktyamwal, police chief of Nangarhar province where Jalalabad is located, plus his deputy were among those wounded in the attack.
The incident is the latest in a string targeting police in Afghanistan, who alongside the army are due to take control of security from 2014, allowing most international troops to withdraw. It happened when three Taliban suicide bombers burst into a branch of Kabul Bank in the city and detonated their devices. There was also a hail of gunfire as the attack unfolded.
“In total, there are 56 injured and eight dead. Most of the injured and dead were hit by AK-47 rounds,” Saifullah Khan Ebrahimkhil, the chief of the main hospital in the city, told AFP. Although the fighting is now over, a curfew in the city has been imposed by local police which bans cars from driving around, an AFP reporter said. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, which he said was committed by three suicide bombers. “People were there doing business deals and to receive their salaries,” he said.
“This attack once again showed the cruel actions of the terrorists who do not want the people of Afghanistan to live in peace.” A medical source speaking on condition of anonymity said the police chief of Nangarhar province where Jalalabad is located, Alishah Paktyamwal, plus his deputy and the city’s criminal police chief were slightly hurt in the attack. An AFP reporter at the scene said he had heard gunshots and five explosions as the attack unfolded.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the militant Islamists, who have been fighting international and government forces in Afghanistan for nearly ten years, were responsible. “Three suicide bombers have entered the Kabul Bank branch in Jalalabad in the section where they pay the army and police salaries. Big casualties have been inflicted,” he said. Eastern Afghanistan is seen as a particularly volatile part of the war-torn country.
A total of 12 people including police officers died in attacks in the region Friday, including nine in a car bombing near a district police headquarters in the city of Khost. Afghan security forces are frequently targets of attacks by the Taliban. Last Saturday, 19 people including 15 police and an intelligence agent died when suicide bombers armed with guns, grenades and car bombs targeted the police headquarters in Afghanistan’s de facto southern capital, Kandahar.
The total strength of Afghan police and army has risen by 36 percent in the last year and ISAF expects the number of police to top 120,000 by September. The Afghan police and army are due to take responsibility for security in their own country from 2014, allowing the bulk of international troops to withdraw. A limited withdrawal of foreign forces is expected to start from more stable provinces of Afghanistan from July.
There are currently around 140,000 international forces, around two-thirds from the United States, in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, who were ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.